AUGUSTA — Get ready for the blitz of television, social media and snail mail ads as campaign battles for Maine’s first and second congressional district races for the U.S. House of Representatives heat up.
Republicans will attempt to unseat Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven), who has served District 1 in the House since 2008; while several Democrats, a Green candidate and an Independent will aim to supplant Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland) in the District 2 seat he’s held since 2014.
The stakes are quite high in both of these potentially pivotal U.S. congressional races. Democrats are looking to regain majority in the House for the first time since 2011, while Republicans will fight to maintain their 238-193 seat lead.
While it doesn’t appear that either Pingree or Poliquin will receive much of a party challenge in the June primaries, those hoping to defeat Maine’s members of the U.S. House have been busy raising money to put themselves in a strong primary position.
In campaign finance reports unveiled last month, Lewiston’s Jared Golden leads a quartet of cash-rich Democratic challengers for Poliquin’s District 2 seat with a cash balance of $181,535. He’s followed by Hamden’s Lucas St. Clair, with a cash balance of $139,823, Jonathan Fulford (Monroe) with $75,835, and Craig Olson (Islesboro), who has $60,992 in the bank.
The numbers, however, pale in comparison to Poliquin’s campaign war chest of $1.9 million. The two-term congressman raised just over $2 million in 2017.
In District 1 reporting, Pingree has $592,945 in the bank, compared to a $31,199 balance for top Republican challenger Mark Holbrook (Brunswick). Pingree raised just over $220,000 last year.
Expect a lot of more money — both from inside and outside of Maine’s borders — to flow into the state as candidates, political parties, special interest groups and political action committees look to influence Maine voters.
To help you cut through the political rhetoric, Pine Tree Watch has collected useful information on candidates in both of Maine’s congressional races. Listed below is campaign information, financial details and useful links to explore these candidates.
It’s looking like a replay of 2016 in District 1, which includes 118 towns in Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, York and (most of) Kennebec counties.
Holbrook is once again challenging Pingree. They’re the only two candidates in the race at this point. Eric Stanton (R-Saco) was running against Holbrook but dropped out to pursue the District 31 state Senate seat.
Holbrook had defeated Ande Allen Smith by 57 votes – the official number after a recount – to win the 2016 Republican primary. But Pingree was re-elected with 58 percent of the vote in the general election.
Hometown: North Haven
Occupation: U.S. Congress representative, elected in 2008
Why she’s running: “I am so grateful to have had the privilege to represent Maine’s first congressional district for as long as I have, and I am thrilled to be seeking re-election in 2018. We have faced many dangers and challenges with this administration, but I continue to fight every day to fix our healthcare system, restore our middle class, and combat climate change. Should I be fortunate enough to be re-elected, I will continue to fight for the people of this district and the values and issues we care so much about.”
Previous political experience: Candidate, U.S. Senate, 2002, lost to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Bangor); Maine Senate, majority leader, 1996-2000; Maine senator, District 12, 1994-2000; Maine state senator, District 21, 1992-1994.
Cash Balance: $592,945
Why he’s running: “I began this campaign in January 2015 because of my deep concern for the well-being of this country. Progressive liberal elitists like my opponent, Rep. Pingree, believe in open borders, boundless entitlement programs, abortion on demand. She appears to be anti-Israel, and she places more value on illegal immigrants than she does on middle-class Americans. Her idea of an economic plan is to subsidize organic farmers and give taxpayer money to private companies. All of that is just wrong. That’s why I am running for office. Rep. Pingree is 100 percent wrong on every issue important to Maine people. I will support securing our borders, reestablishing our national sovereignty, and protecting Americans. I will work to bring new industries and more jobs to Maine. I will work to protect our natural resources and the environment beginning with the Portland sewer district calamity. Unlike my opponent, I will fight corporate welfare and work to put more money in the pockets of Maine families.”
Previous political experience: Chairman, Brunswick Republican Town Committee; candidate, U.S. Congressional District 1, 2016, lost to Pingree; candidate, Maine House District 50, 2014.
Cash Balance: $31,199
Poliquin is the only Republican candidate running for House District 2 so far, but a crowded field of Democrats and third-party candidates – including a Green Party member determined to become the first Native American from Maine elected to Congress – are vying for his seat.
House District 2 includes about 80 percent of the Maine’s total land mass and is the second most rural district in the U.S. House of Representatives. It includes Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo, Washington and part of Kennebec counties.
Why he’s running: “Since entering Congress, my focus has been on Maine’s economy, securing jobs, protecting Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, ensuring our veterans get the care and services they earned and deserve, lowering healthcare costs, and promoting our Maine values. As a founding member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I am working to help end the opioid crisis and combat addiction. Growing up with a mother who was a nurse, and as a member of the Rural Health Care Caucus, I continue to be engaged on working to protect Maine’s hospitals, especially those in rural areas. Already in this new Congress, I have passed multiple pieces of legislation through the U.S. House on a bipartisan basis. Sexual harassment should never be tolerated and I was the first in my party to join a bipartisan effort to fight it. I will continue working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to get things done for the people of Maine.”
Previous political experience: Candidate Maine Senate, 2012, lost in primary; gubernatorial candidate, 2010, lost in primary; Maine state treasurer, 2010-2012.
Cash Balance: $1,930,437
Why he’s running: “It looked like the best way to make a difference and make sure the future for my grandchildren, and for all of us, is one I feel will be good about. I have three main focus areas. Climate change – this is a challenge we face that needs to be addressed correctly. When addressed correctly, it will create more jobs and fix another problem with our society. As a builder focused on energy conservation, I know what it takes to do that. We need single-payer universal healthcare. Everyone should have access to high-quality healthcare. Our healthcare system is in a state of crisis. The third is the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of the few. We need an economy that works for everyone. The rich need to pay their fair share and we need to get money out of politics.”
Previous political experience: Candidate, Maine Senate District 11, 2016.
Cash Balance: $75,835
Why he’s running: “There’s a lot behind it. It’s a particularly important time in America, and I feel it’s time for a new generation of people to step up to lead politics. Part of my decision was out of frustration with Rep. Poliquin’s vote on healthcare, part of it was reflecting on my time at the state house. The only experience I’ve had in politics has been in a divided government and for all the media attention about the divisions, we’ve gotten a lot done. As a combat veteran, I was particularly upset with how Donald Trump spoke about John McCain during the campaign. I’m a Democrat, but I respect (McCain) and this kind of language from someone who didn’t serve, the level of negative discourse, really bothered me. In recent years, there’s been a lot of conversations about how there are fewer veterans in Congress, which I see as part of the reason there’s more partisan divide and an unwillingness to see the bigger picture. For everything that’s wrong about war, it’s unifying for people serving together. We need more veterans in Congress. I want to offer that service.”
Previous political experience: State representative since 2015.
Cash Balance: $181,535
Why he’s running: “I am not a single-issue candidate, but what got me going was the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What it really boils down to is that the people that are discussing the act and making decisions don’t have a clue what it was like to struggle through the healthcare system. There is more and more distance between the folks in Congress and the folks they represent. I want to change that.”
Previous political experience: Chairman, Isleboro Democratic Committee since 2002; chairman, Isleboro Board of Selectmen, 2012-2013; selectman, Isleboro Board of Selectmen, 2011-2014; member, Isleboro Planning Board, 2003-2011.
Cash Balance: $60,992
Hometown: Bar Harbor
Why he’s running: Candidate did not respond to question
Previous political experience: None
Cash Balance: $10,376
LUCAS ST. CLAIR
Why he’s running: “It really came from the fact that I grew up in Dover-Foxcroft, spent most of my life in northern Maine, and through my work on the (Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument), I became familiar with a lot of issues. There’s a real opportunity to grow our rural economy and capitalize on our natural resources, but I haven’t seen the leadership in House District 2 do that. I worked in Congress for several years on the national monument. I have a skill set that’s well suited to bring disparate groups together. Trying to find common ground and compromise is something I love doing and I’ve been relatively successful at it. I want to bring that same work ethic and style to Congress.”
Previous political experience: None
Cash Balance: $139,823
HENRY JOHN BEAR
Why he’s running: “The need for good leadership and vision is fundamental to our democracy. The negative influence of special interests and ‘big money’ on absentee and unaccountable politicians has become rampant and contrary to our way of life. Whether it be unions, workers, the poor, low and middle class, religious minorities, LGBTQ communities, women, single mothers, family farmers and fishermen, family foresters, college students, small business owners or the tribes, the growing consensus is that most Mainers are not served by the current Congressional representative of Maine’s 2nd District. Mainers are fervently seeking big changes. Instinctively, we know there is a better way to move forward than continuing to elect leaders that hide away in Washington and recklessly work to reduce essential public services in order to widen the income gap, export forestry jobs to appease campaign donors, keep tax money hidden overseas, or let foreign conglomerates exploit our natural resources and destroy our environment leaving us little more than waste in our own land. I intend to win this seat with one of the biggest political upsets of our time to prove that Mainers are sick of this situation and want better.”
Previous political experience: Non-voting tribal member in the Maine House since 2012.
Cash Balance: $0
Why she’s running: “There were a lot of men running, and none of them seemed to know about the law. I read legislation regularly, and this past year, there has been notably bad legislation. Some elements of the Tax Bill didn’t accomplish anything, they were just mean. The elimination of the deduction on alimony payments, that was just mean, in addition to other deductions they eliminated. It’s rough for people living in small rural towns year-round, and now they can’t write off some of the things they could have. These laws are not well written and it seems like no one’s reading them. There should be someone in Congress who knows how to read law. It is the whole point of the job.”
Previous political experience: None
Financing: $0 – Bond is asking supporters to donate to charities in lieu of campaign donations.